New report looks at future of NASA, mission safety

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — The space industry is changing and a recent report from NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel said the agency must change with it.

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That means having a clear vision for the future of space exploration while maintaining NASA’s culture of safety.

The report said the space industry is at a turning point. As the commercial space industry continues its rapid growth, NASA is relying more on industry and international partners. It also states that as the agency defines its future role, it must also be prepared to manage risks as it always has.

The report details a rapidly transforming space industry where NASA is sharing more responsibility with its commercial partners.

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“Of course the commercial partners have to accept more responsibility, but NASA has to provide robust oversight,” said Dr. Ken Kremer with Space UpClose.

While there have been some clear successes, the panel did have some concerns. It referenced the night landing of the Crew-1 mission, saying NASA and SpaceX differed in their understanding of the level of risk, and last-minute communications were necessary to ensure the night landing.

In another example, during Boeing’s OFT-2 flight readiness review for the Starliner spacecraft, NASA and Boeing differed on how they characterized the risk that was brought to light by stuck propulsion valves.

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The panel ultimately recommended NASA develops a strategic vision for the future of space exploration and operations. It also called on the agency to establish and provide leadership through a board of directors and said NASA should manage Artemis as an integrated program with top-down alignment.

In response, NASA administrator Bill Nelson said, “As the world leader in space exploration and an invaluable partner to a booming commercial space industry, NASA will always ensure safety in our of our missions.”

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Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.